ByElisabeth Shockman & Christopher Intagliata•13 hours ago
This policy of fire suppression is one the US has followed for over a century. Some scientists, however, are beginning to question this strategy. There is a growing consensus of researchers who believe suppressing forest fires might actually be causing more severe fires, and worsening climate change long-term.
Multiple times this summer, the sighting of a wayward hobbyist drone has grounded aerial firefighting aircraft at Western wildfires. But unmanned aircraft have the potential to be useful at wildfires too.
This has been one of the worst — and most expensive — wildfire seasons ever in the Northwest, where climate change and a history of suppressing wildfires have created a dangerous buildup of fuels.
With fires burning hotter and more intense, there are renewed calls to change how the federal government pays to fight the biggest fires.
"These large and intense fires are a natural disaster in much the same way a hurricane or a tornado or a flood is," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says. "And they ought to be funded as such through the emergency funding of FEMA."
Washington Governor Jay Inslee says the fires burning across the state represent a “new normal.” On a tour of the fire lines Thursday, the Democrat reiterated his call for a program to limit carbon emissions.
“So we got to attack this at its source which is carbon pollution. And that’s for another day. Right now we’ve got to put out these fires,” said Inslee.
With the surge in wildfires this year, firefighters are facing a new challenge; interference from drones.
Unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft are being flown near active wildfires. The safety issues they cause can keep aircraft grounded—and keep them from the frequently critical task of dropping retardant.
“Flying a drone near a wildfire is putting someone else’s life in danger, whether it be firefighters on the ground, pilots in the air…your drone hobby is not worth someone else’s life…”